Indian gambling laws do not allow sports betting, either online or offline. In spite of this, many local players utilize online sportsbooks that are hosted in other countries, where internet gambling is completely legal. This sort of activity ends up falling into a sort of legal gray area, especially since the country’s gambling laws vary from state to state.
With the use of these foreign-hosted sports betting websites on the rise, especially betting on Indian Premier League matches and Twenty20 cricket tournaments, the government is starting to take notice. There are currently several major online sportsbooks that target Indian bettors, and a few of these have become the subject of scrutiny on the part of India’s tax officials.
Officials are particularly interested in the activities of Bet365, William Hill, Ladbrokes and Betfair, all of which offer internet betting in India. While none of these offer online sportsbook services in local languages or currencies, they remain popular among Indian sports bettors.
The goal of these investigations is not very clear, but it seems that officials are concerned with the rise of online gambling in India, especially since the use of foreign-run websites by Indian citizens is largely beyond their control. Possible connections between online betting and the financials of the Indian Premier League also appear to be a concern.
“The legality of online betting and gambling is not very clear,” said Pawan Duggal, a Supreme Court lawyer who specializes in information technology law. “Gambling is a state subject and different states enacted different anti-gambling laws. But most of these are pre-Internet era so there is no clarity on online betting. The IT Act 2000 and its amendment in 2008 are both completely silent on online gambling. There are, however, reasons to believe that online betting is illegal.”
The final decision on the matter of course comes down to lawmakers, not lawyers. Fortunately for Indian players, the government is showing no signs of making any changes to local gambling laws any time soon.